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Shen Yun and the stories China wants to forget

Courtesy photo
Shen Yun has taken its music and dance performance showcasing China's rich history to many places across the globe - except for China itself. The show, featuring a large cast of Chinese-American performers, comes to the Clay Center Tuesday and Wednesday.
Courtesy photo Shen Yun has taken its music and dance performance showcasing China's rich history to many places across the globe - except for China itself. The show, featuring a large cast of Chinese-American performers, comes to the Clay Center Tuesday and Wednesday.

 WANT TO GO?

Shen Yun Performing Arts

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

TICKETS: $53.50, $63.50, $73.50, $83.50, $93.50, $103.50, $123.50

INFO:304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Shen Yun Performing Arts considers itself the world's premier classical Chinese dance and music company.

Using tales taken from China's rich history of myth and legend, the show features acrobatic dancers and traditional music in a gigantic spectacle that's toured the world.

It's been all kinds of places - except China.

Shen Yun, which comes to the Clay Center Tuesday and Wednesday, is based out of New York,. It's made up of Chinese-American performers, but probably wouldn't be welcome in mainland China.

Still, dancer Mingye Liu said the company would love to take the show there.

"I think Shen Yun is what China needs, actually," he said. "But this type of show isn't allowed by the current government. In China, you're only allowed to say what they want you to say, and they're not much into traditional Chinese culture."

Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by a group of Chinese ex-patriots. The ex-pats are adherents to Falun Gong, a religion suppressed by the communist government since 1999.

Liu got involved with Shen Yun in 2007 and was one of the show's original dancers. He was attracted to the production because it seemed like a unique sort of show.

"They wanted to share a unique experience," he said. "I was told there was this group that was all about putting Chinese culture on major stages around the world. I'd never heard of anyone trying to do that before."

He had some background in performing arts and was a dancer, but he also knew martial arts. He'd studied kung fu since he was 11 years old, which fit very well into what Shen Yun was doing.

"Kung fu dance and the martial art come from the same root." Liu explained. "They originated at about the same time, thousands of years ago. The dance came out of the royal courts, while the martial arts was being developed as a way to fight militarily."

The two borrowed liberally from each other with the tumbling and jumping from dance incorporated into both, but, obviously, for different reasons.

Liu was born in China, but he and his parents immigrated to the United States when he was very young. He grew up in Orange County, Calif. His English is perfect, though influenced by the easy-going accent of Southern California.

"It was a very Republican, very Caucasian environment in Orange County," he said. "I'm what you might call 1.5 generation, but really it's really kind of second generation Chinese American, and I absorbed everything I was around."

Liu's parents, however, did not.

"My parents stayed pretty much Chinese," he said. "They'd tell me stories about China, especially my father. He loved reading and read all the Chinese novels and histories he could get. That sort of kept me somewhat connected to my roots."

Liu is proud to be part of the show. He said Shen Yun is an exciting and engaging production that's been all over the world.

"We've played some places I thought were pretty unusual," he said. "We were lucky enough to get to go to Turkey, which seemed kind of odd to me. Turkey isn't a very big place, and there aren't that many Chinese people there, but we got the show and the audience loved it."

He hopes West Virginia will love it, too and maybe one day, they'll get to China.

"This show is what they need because this is who they are," he said. "We'd love to be in China."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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